FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon’s 2022 softball season was one of a young team maturing as the season progressed.
The Marauders finished 13-9 overall and 3-4 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference. There wasn’t a senior in the starting lineup and after struggling at times — as young inexperienced teams do — they won seven of the final eight contests to get to the Pendleton Heights Sectional championship game.
The Marauders lost to the Arabians, who went on to reach the Class 4A semi-state.
During that late-season run, Mt. Vernon beat 4A power and rival New Palestine. Nine of the team’s wins came in the month of May.
What’s unique about the returning group for the 2023 season is that it not only includes last year’s newcomers, but it still has three holdovers from the 2021 team that won 26 games and reached the semi-state championship, an epic 10-inning 1-0 heartbreaking loss to eventual state-champion Roncalli.
With that mixture of talent, the Marauders want to continue the momentum they had at the end of last season with hopes of another long tournament run like it had two years ago.
“I have everybody back and it’s super-exciting,” Mt. Vernon head coach Veronica Kirby said. “We’re bringing back that experience, having that year under their belt is going to be super helpful.”
Shortstop Shelby Rakosky is a junior, but already a three-year starter. An outfielder as a freshman, she fit in well as an infielder last season, playing shortstop for the first time. She led the Marauders with a .459 batting average and 13 doubles.
Junior Easton Wampler is another three-year starter. The standout catcher led Mt. Vernon in home runs (5) and RBIs (21). She hit .397 and also had eight doubles.
Another veteran starter is Drew Fithian, back for her fourth year as a starter at third base. She hit .242 last season with two home runs and 11 RBIs.
The trio was part of the 2021 team. Ten players graduated from that squad, making 2022 a learning experience for most of the roster.
Sophomore pitcher Graci Hines learned quickly. She may be slowed early this season, recovering from an injury, but she proved to be stellar in the circle and at the plate in her first high school season. As a pitcher, Hines went 10-6 with a 1.45 earned run average. In 106 innings pitched, she struck out 127.
At the dish, Hines was one of MV’s top hitters, batting .368 with three home runs.
If Hines is on the shelf early, senior Tori Jenson will handle No. 1 pitching duties. Kirby has been impressed with Jenson’s improvement from last season when she went 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA. Jenson will also play some first base. She’s signed to compete next year at NAIA Calumet College of St. Joseph in Hammond.
Outfielder Ainsley Baer (third on the team in runs scored with 13) and infielder Hayvin Turner are two more experienced returnees, along with Lexi Beeler and Hannah Matthews. Senior Libby Gee-Weiler, a Division-I volleyball signee at Arkansas State, returns to the softball field and is expected to add strength to the outfield.
Along with the talented returning group, Kirby believes there are some newcomers that can help, too.
The coach said she sees a great future for freshmen Amya Gary, an outfielder, and Emma Jenkins a catcher who will get a chance to learn the trade behind the veteran Wampler.
Mt. Vernon is scheduled to open the season Tuesday with a home game against Zionsville.
“We’re a team I think you’re going to see and watch grow over the year,” Kirby said. “We’re going to get better as the year goes on and I think people are going to notice that. We have some talent and depth and we’re going to do nothing but get better. With that depth, we have a lot of options and I’m excited for that.”
2023 Mt. Vernon Softball Schedule
March 28;vs. Zionsville;6 p.m.
March 29;at Carmel;6 p.m.
April 8;vs. Lutheran;11 a.m.
April 10;at Hamilton Southeastern;5:30 p.m.
April 11;at Yorktown;5:30 p.m.
April 12;vs. Connersville;6 p.m.
April 15;at Columbus East;10 a.m.
April 17;at New Castle;5:30 p.m.
April 18;vs. Frankton;5:30 p.m.
April 20;at New Palestine;5:30 p.m.
April 24;at Delta;6 p.m.
April 25;vs. Lapel;5:30 p.m.
April 27;vs. Fishers;5:30 p.m.
April 28;vs. Greenfield-Central;7 p.m.
May 1;vs. Noblesville;5:30 p.m.
May 2;at Shelbyville;6 p.m.
May 4;vs. Pendleton Heights;5:30 p.m..
May 5;at Westfield;6 p.m.
May 9;vs. Shenandoah;5:30 p.m.
May 10;at Lawrence North;6 p.m.
May 15;at Anderson;5:30 p.m.
May 17;at Warren Central;5:30 p.m.
May 20;Mt. Vernon Tournament;10 a.m.